Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Calif.) has accused the Navy of harassing a fired government attorney in retaliation for the attorney's efforts to change the laws governing dismissal of government specialists.
Stephen Stokwitz, former general counsel of the Naval Ocean Systems Center in San Diego, said service investigators have subpoenaed 21 months of his bank records after reopening an investigation that they told him was closed last year.
Stokwitz was fired without any chance of appeal in October after two employes he had reprimanded accused him of drug use, having sex in his office and cheating on his travel vouchers and use of the office telephone.
Under the rules of "excepted service," all federal attorneys and more than 1 million other specialists may be fired without cause or appeal.
Stokwitz, who had won awards and been recommended for promotion shortly before dismissal, has filed suit seeking reinstatement and more than $1 million in damages from several Navy officials. He has appeared at a Washington news conference in support of a Dymally bill that would guarantee "excepted service" employes the right that most civil service employes have to challenge dismissals.
Dymally has written to Attorney General Edwin Meese III to complain about the reopened Stokwitz investigation, which apparently was authorized by an assistant U.S. attorney in San Diego considering whether federal criminal charges should be filed against the dismissed attorney.
"It's obviously targeting," a Dymally aide said. "If Steve had not come to the Congress, we don't believe those San Diego folks would have gone back after him."
Stokwitz was told when he was fired that no charges would be lodged against him, but his file was turned over to federal prosecutors.
Nearly $22,000 in debt and in danger of losing his house, Stokwitz said the reopened investigation shows "they will do anything to get me." He noted that naval investigator James Chambers, who served the subpoena on his bank, was among those he has sued for damages.
Navy records show Chambers and other investigators asked some of Stokwitz's female friends about his sex life and whether he used cocaine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Neece, defending the Navy against Stokwitz's suit for reinstatement, said it is common practice for prosecutors to ask investigators to reopen inquiries if more information is needed before deciding whether to prosecute. Civil suits against investigators such as Chambers have become "a common tactic," he said. Most government investigations would have to stop, he said, if agents had to be taken off the cases they knew best.